Sonoma Grand Tasting at WBC09

I admit it, by the time the Sonoma Grand Tasting started, I was a bit overwhelmed. This was my first Wine Bloggers’ Conference, and up until this point, I’d never tasted more than 15-20 wines in one sitting. At the WBC, though, by 5pm there had already been wine tasting in the welcome room, wine tasting at lunch, and wine tasting at the speed tasting, so the Sonoma Grand Tasting was taking me further outside of my tasting comfort zone than I’d even been before. So, I was nervous, but I was also up for the challenge.

The Sonoma Grad Tasting was a roped-off patio area near the pool at the Flamingo Resort. As you can see from the pictures, there were a lot of bloggers in a very small space, but it served as a way for us to get to know each other very quickly. People were standing around talking, eating delicious cheese and spreads with crackers, and of course, tasting 2, 3, or 4 wines from every vineyard at the tasting.

The Grand Tasting was definitely a success for me. I tasted Murphy-Goode wines for the first time and was pleased with what I tasted, as I had never even heard of the winery before the contest for the Really Goode Job. I worked my way through some well-know, affordable everyday wines that I often look at in the wine store, but haven’t had a chance to purchase, as well as tasted some lesser-known, more-unusual wines that were pleasant surprises. While all of the wines were good, none of them knocked me off my feet. Admittedly, I was nervous that I was the only one who felt that way, but after talking with other bloggers throughout the weekend, it seemed that my opinion was shared by others.

My notes from this event aren’t very detailed, but here are some pictures and my overall ratings:

Murphy-Goode Winery (website)
2008 “The Fume” Sauvignon Blanc—$12.50 3 Corks
Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon—$20 3 Corks
2006 “Liar’s Dice” Zinfandel—$21
3.5 Corks

Chateau St. Jean (website)
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon—$30 3.5 Corks
2007 Chardonnay—$25 4 Corks

Souverain (website)
2007 Chardonnay—$13
3 Corks
2007 Merlot—$15
3 Corks

Frick Winery (website)
2006 Cinsault—$26
4.5 Corks
2007 Grenache Blanc—$27 4 Corks

Alexander Valley Vineyards (website)
2004 Syrah—$35
4.5 Corks
2007 Sin Zin—$17 3 Corks
2008 Dry Rose of Sangiovese—$12 3.5 Corks

Dutton Goldfield Vineyards (website)
2006 Sanchietti Vineyard Pinot Noir—$58
3 Corks
2006 Freestone Hill Vineyrd Pinot Noir—$58
3 Corks
2007 Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir—$38
3 Corks
2007 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay—$35
2.5 Corks

Speedy Wine Tasting at the WBC09: 4.5 and 5 Cork Wines

As I mentioned post about Speedy Wine Tasting at the WBC09, conference attendees had a chance to taste 11 different wines, each within a 5 minute timeframe. These wines really stood of for me.

5 Corks

2005 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (winery)
I admit it; this was a winery I was hoping to taste during WBC09. I’ve read numerous reviews of their wines, but admittedly have had a little difficulty finding any. When it turned out to be our last speed tasting wine, I was very excited.

The wine is still on the young side, with a deep purple color that is starting to trend towards ruby.
There were good berry flavors that were matched in intensity with fresh cloves and vanilla. Those flavors were followed with a hint of leather. The wine had good, strong tannins. I think the wine has several years worth of aging potential, and if you’re going to drink it now, I recommend decanting the wine, as the wine opened up as I swirl and sipped.

4.5 Corks

Benovia Winery 2007 Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir (vineyard)
Benovia winery focuses on growing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel grapes. The Savoy’s Pinot Noir had nice red berry—raspberry and cranberry—flavors that were followed by some vegetal notes. The wine had good acid, low tannins, and a medium body, which all played well together, although there was something different about it. Overall, it provided a nice, smooth, enjoyable experience.

Speedy Wine Tasting at the WBC09

Someone at WBC09 described the Live Blogging Wine Tasting event as “speed dating” with wine. For each wine, we had 5 minutes to talk with the representative (usually the winemaker), ask questions, taste the wine, and take notes before the next representative was at our table to start the process all over again. I tasted 11 wines total during the speed tasting. The comparison to speed dating was perfect because 5 minutes was enough time for a quick introduction, a little flirting, and a decision as to whether or not there was enough interest for a follow-up, but definitely not enough time to learn everything there was to offer or to really get a detailed impression. For me, though, there were a couple of differences, mainly that I tried to take pictures and to tweet during the event. I would never do (or at least openly do) either of those things during speed dating. That said, although I took a number of pictures, most of them didn’t turn out, and anyone who follows me on Twitter (@Alleigh) knows that I quickly abandoned my attempt to Tweet in order to spend a little more quality time with the wine.

With that in mind, here is a quick overview of how I rated each wine in this post. In an effort to keep this organized and make my notes more searchable in the future, I’m going to put my tasting notes in separate posts that are organized by rating level.

5 Corks
2005 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (

4.5 Corks
2007 Benovia Winery Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir (vineyard)—$55

4 Corks
2006 Clif Bar Gary’s Improv Syrah (winery)—$35
2007 Cline Ancient Vines Mouvedre (

3.5 Corks
2005 Rodney Strong Vineyards’ Rockaway Pinot Noir (vineyard)—$75
2005 Snows Lake Two (
2007 Cupcake Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (
2007 Foggy Bridge Chardonnay (

3 Corks
2007 Lion’s Pride Pinot Noir (website)—$35
2007 Tandem Chardonnay (

2.5 Corks
2007 Line 39 Petite Sirah (website)—$10
NV Pinot Evil Pinot Noir (

Let The Good Wine Flow

With the busy work period ending last week and the July 4th holiday weekend rapidly approaching this week, work has been fairly quiet. Many of my officemates are on vacation, people that I normally collaborate with from other offices aren’t returning emails, and my phone is oddly quiet. Don’t misunderstand; I’m enjoying the quiet, the slower pace, and the shorter work hours. However, it doesn’t make for an interesting workday. That said, with my opening of the bottle of Silver earlier in the week, at least my wine choices finally have moved from the average to the intriguing. The 2007 Edna Valley Pinot Noir, which I also opened this week, kept the excitement going.

The 2007 Edna Valley Pinot Noir (vineyard, snooth) was a medium ruby color and had rapidly forming legs. On the nose, there were cherry, raspberry, and pomegranate aromas mixed with a variety of cooking spices—mostly cloves, nutmeg, and vanilla. This Pinot Noir kept asking to be smelled because the fruits and spices blended so beautifully. In the mouth, the fruit and spice flavors were bold and very similar in character. The medium tannins, medium alcohol, and medium body made for a nice overall balance.

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one! What are you waiting for? At $23, you will have a delicious red wine that has surprising complexity, isn’t overly fruity, and is perfect drinking with or without food. I actually spent three days with this wine, which gave me the opportunity to drink it with food, as well as enjoy the wine on its own. Both food nights were also chances for me to use our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) produce from Great Country Farms. The first night I paired the wine with a well-spiced, broiled chicken and spicy rice and kale, and on the second night, I paired the wine with a chicken, snow pea, and broccoli stir-fry. While both pairings worked well, I admit that the wine paired better on night 2 with less spicy foods. I think it would also work with salmon, gamey meats, and grilled chicken. By night number 3, the fruit flavors dominated the spice flavors, and the wine was a little jammy tasting, but it was still very drinkable and very good.

Overall: 4.5 Corks

The Search for Silver

Back in April, while I was studying for my WSET Intermediate Certificate, I would reward myself on Sunday evenings for spending the weekend studying with a trip to my local wine bar. While I was there, I had my first experience with the 2006 Silver unoaked Chardonnay. As I often emailed and twittered (@Alleigh) during these tastings, I sent a message to several of my girlfriends telling them that I had just tasted one of the best Chardonnays I’d ever had, although, at that point in my wine education, I don’t know that I fully appreciated its artistry.

My girlfriends were intrigued by my description of the wine, particularly the few that said they didn’t like Chardonnay. I was convinced that they would feel differently about this wine, and I knew the perfect time to share the Chardonnay with them. This group of 7 ladies, who all live in different parts of the USA, were planning a small get-together around this time, and while I couldn’t join them, I decided to try and ship a bottle for them to try. Admittedly, I waited until the last minute and my efforts were thwarted because, at the time, I couldn’t ship the wine to Indiana because of state restrictions. I started to panic. Finally, an email frenzy began on the day the girls were all leaving, and several started calling their local wine stores to see if the store carried the 2006 Silver Chardonnay. After numerous calls (it was difficult to find), the Michigan ladies came to the rescue. They were able to find a bottle at Papa Joe’s Gourmet Market & Catering, so on the way to Indiana, the two women (and a baby) made a quick detour to purchase a bottle. With all the anticipation, I’m sure it was hard for the Chardonnay to live up to their expectations, but the group proceeded to email me while they enjoyed the bottle. Even though I missed drinking it with them, I was definitely there in spirit.

With a history like this, I couldn’t help but turn to the 2006 Silver Chardonnay this past Monday evening. Lately, I’ve felt like everything is average. Work has been average—I‘ve accomplished what I need to accomplish and there hasn’t been anything negative happening, but, at the same time, there hasn’t been anything truly exciting either. Even more disappointing, the wine I’ve opened has been average—not bad, all drinkable, but not speaking to me either. I needed something thrilling, so I opened the bottle of Silver to see if it was everything I remembered. And it was…

The 2006 Silver Chardonnay (winery, snooth) is an unoaked Chardonnay from the Mer Soleil Winery and is only the second vintage of this particular wine. It’s a medium lemon color, with some green flecks that speak to its relative youth. On the nose, there was a delicious and unusual combination of aromas. Citrus (lemon and lime) and green fruit aromas (apple and pear) dominated, but they were met with a hint of tropical fruit scents (pineapple). There was also a nice minerality mixed in with the fruits. In the mouth, there were strong lime flavors that were moderated by mango and pineapple flavors. There was also a hint of wet stone. The wine had a nice acidity and alcohol, with a fairly long finish.

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one! What are you waiting for? At $43, some may consider this a little expensive for an everyday wine. However, wine is the winemaker’s form of artwork, and the 2006 Silver Chardonnay is a true masterpiece. It combines the crisp acidity and citrus flavors of a Chablis, which is a cool climate Chardonnay, with the tropical fruit lusciousness of a hot climate Chardonnay. The result is an unusual tasting wine with a medium body and a bit of tingle/fizz on the mouth, but enough acidity to be light and refreshing. The 2006 Silver Chardonnay would pair well with food, particularly white fish, shrimp, or summery fettuccine alfredo, but is also very enjoyable on its own.

Overall: 5 Corks